We are living longer these days. Active lifestyles, healthy eating, medical advances and genetics are all playing a role in longer life expectancies for many people. With that in mind, how has your family been affected by Alzheimer’s? If you are fortunate, you may be asking: what is Alzheimer’s and why should I care?
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive type of dementia that affects a persons ability to think and reason. The disease will eventually affect the way a person performs daily routine activities. Eventually, the horrible disease progresses to death.
For many individuals, the disease leaves them dependent on others for the most basic tasks. At some point, scheduling doctors appointments, paying bills, grocery shopping and even daily personal hygiene becomes challenging. As the disease advances, it can rob an individual of the ability to recognize close family members. Spouses, children and grandchildren may no longer be familiar faces. In some instances, family members and caregivers may be viewed as complete strangers.
The Alzheimer’s Association has changed their Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month from September to June. This is a great opportunity to take a look at how you may be affected by Alzheimer’s. You may be thinking, I’m too: young, healthy, smart and active. Additionally, you may think – I have no family history of Alzheimer’s. If those are your sentiments, then you should think again.
Here are 6 Quick Facts found on the Alzheimer’s Association website:
- More than 5 million Americans are living with the disease.
- Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s.
- Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
- There are approximately 500,000 people dying each year because they have Alzheimer’s.
- 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia.
- In 2013, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion.
Based on the information above, it is likely that you will be affected by Alzheimer’s in one way or another. Be prepared for the challenges of the disease by getting your estate plan in place. In the case of your incapacity or death, an estate plan can provide an invaluable roadmap for loved ones to care for you or distribute your assets according to your wishes.
In addition, there is a chance that you may spend some time as a caregiver for a family member affected by Alzheimer’s. Having the estate planning talk with parents and other loved ones can be difficult. Many elderly individuals view questions about their important documents, financial accounts or health care matters as being rude and very intrusive. Privacy and independence ranks high on their list of priorities. However, gathering this information is an essential part of caregiving. Being proactive before an illness such as Alzheimer’s strikes, is extremely helpful.
Talk to your loved ones and find out if they have estate planning documents. At a minimum, they should have the following updated documents: a Will, Durable Financial Power of Attorney, and a Healthcare Directive with Living Will. For many individuals, a trust, medicaid planning or other strategies may be necessary.
Seek professional help when preparing your estate plan to determine what documents are needed based on your wishes and circumstances. No estate plan is one size fits all.
Aquanetta J. Betts, is an attorney licensed in Washington, DC and Maryland – http://www.abettslaw.com. This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal advice.